When the video of Tyre Nichols’ beating at the hands of Memphis police was released on Friday, Jan. 27, some students in Melissa Collins’ 2nd grade class had questions.
Go home this weekend and talk to your parents, she told them. Over the course of that weekend, she, too, was talking to those parents and families to get a sense of how they were doing and of what her students had learned about the tragedy.
When her students returned to class on Monday, Collins was ready to talk with them, and to help them find an outlet for their questions and concerns. They told her they wanted to draw as a way of expressing their feelings.
Taking her lead from the 2nd graders, Collins’ continued to incorporate art and conversation into her lessons. She wanted to help her class understand who Tyre Nichols was as a person, that he was more than what was captured in the brutal video that ignited protests across the nation.
In the weeks since, her students have learned about peace, about different forms of artistic expression, about the impact they can have, and the weight their voices can carry.
In one lesson, they illustrated the change they’d like to see in the world.
Though her students are only in 2nd grade, Collins, the 2023 Tennessee Teacher of the Year, believes it’s her duty to have these difficult conversations with them and to let her classroom act as a safe space where they can process all that’s happening in the world around them.
Here, she and her students reflect on those lessons.
Coverage of whole-child approaches to learning is supported in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, at www.chanzuckerberg.com. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.